Saturday, May 26, 2012

MG Review: Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas

Just in time for the Olympics: A gymnastics novel to flip for!

Joey Jordan loves gymnastics: the thrill of performing a backflip on the beam, the cheers of the audience when she sticks a landing. But even with all her talent and style, she's never quite made it to that gold medal stand.

Now big changes shake up Joey's life in and out of the gym. Joey wants to break out some daring new beam and floor routines--but she'll have to defy her strict coach to do it. Her best friend, Alex, is thinking about quitting gymnastics for good. And an old friend named Tanner just moved back to town, and he's suddenly gotten very, very cute. Can Joey handle all the challenges coming her way, and make her gold medal summer happen at last?

Drawing on her real-life experience as a competitive gymnast, acclaimed novelist Donna Freitas delivers both a terrific gymnastics story and a classic novel about stretching some limits, bending the rules, and finding your balance.

Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age
Source: Thanks so much to Scholastic for providing a review copy!

I haven't read any MG for awhile now. This is another one I'll mark down as 'must read' for my girls when they are old enough. It's such a sweetly moving story of one girl's summer and how she basically matures and gains confidence in herself.

I found the content to bring back so many nostalgic memories of my own summers around this time of my life. Maybe not so much the gymnastics part of it in my case :) Your first crush, the nervous anticipation of seeing that someone...your first kiss. It was really easy to relate to all the things that Joey was feeling. I think 13-14 years old is a time of enormous change for kids. Especially one involved in a sport that takes so much sacrifice and dedication.

I loved seeing Joey change so much from the first chapter to the last. Her transformation from questioning her abilities and whether there is room for boys (one in particular) in her grueling gymnastics training to realizing what is most important to HER and how to manage her priorities was so well done. And although I don't know much about gymnastics, I really loved every part of this book.

This was an entertaining read for any age, but spot on for any Middle Grader. It shines a light on believing in yourself and sticking with your goals. A perfect book just in time for summer!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Source: Thanks to EgmontUSA for making this title available on Netgalley!

I just recently read the first book in this series, Hourglass. I pretty much died over it :) So I've been really excited to dig into this one. It met alot of my expectations and missed a few as well. Overall I'd say it was a satisfying read and I'll be eagerly awaiting the next book.

Kaleb was probably (definitely) my favorite character in Hourglass. He's not in it nearly as much as Michael or Emerson, but he makes an impact :) I was surprised to start reading and have Kaleb be the narrator in Timepiece as a opposed to Emerson. I really liked Kaleb as narrator for the most part. It gave me a greater insight into his character and his motivations and whatnot. But it also took away some of the mystery and excitement. And I know this is going to sound wishy-washy, but he was almost too much of a stand-up guy in this book. It totally makes sense why he is, but still :)

The plot in Timepiece is superbly twisty and turny. But not so much so that you fry your brain trying to keep up with time traveling jargon and whatnot. I really love that these are 'time travel' books without all the hurt-your-brain time travel stuff. Does that make sense? Anyway, the story is really fast-paced and action-y. I also got a better understanding of the Hourglass organization within the story and there is plenty of character development across the board. I read this one almost as fast as I read Hourglass.

I think this is a solid second book. I'll be waiting impatiently for Book 3!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blog Tour Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

Publication Date: May 22, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Realistic Fiction
Source: Thanks so much to Bloomsbury and Walker for letting me be a part of this tour!

Contemporary greatness strikes again. I always think of myself as a 'paranormal' type of gal, but these contemp books just strike at my heart. This one is no exception. The emotions hit and then keep piling up as you read further into the pages. Whether or not you can relate to this exact situation, I think the feelings that saturate the MC are so relatable.

Clementine is a girl stuck on a boat with her family for the summer. She's been blacklisted from her best friend and bad-mouthed by the entire school. Her family boating trip comes at the perfect time to let her figure out who she really is and separate it from what everyone says she is. She's a girl with a lot of baggage and it has crushed her self-worth. I was railing at the injustice of how she was made to shoulder the full blame for what happened, especially the more I knew about it.

Surrounded by her family and senior citizens it is most fortunate that she meets James. He helps her see past her sadness and guilt to what is REAL. He is a sweet, flame-haired love interest for Clem . . . even if she doesn't want him to be :)

This is a poignant story with a beautiful message about love and forgiveness. A perfect summer read!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

SBB Tour Review: The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova

Synopsis:For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave.

He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he’s heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods.

Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea…and now it wants him back.

Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: Thanks to Southern Book Bloggers for letting me be a part of this blog tour!

This is actually the first 'mermaid' type book I've read. Technically it's a 'merman' book, but you know what I mean. It didn't quite meet my expectation of a Young Adult novel. I think it would be more appropriately categorized as Middle Grade. That being said it is an interesting story.

I find the idea of an underwater world really cool. I did grow up with The Little Mermaid after all. The plot is simple and direct. Tristan finds out he has some royal mermaid heritage on his mother's side and is whisked into the turmoil going on under the sea. I do wish the characters had been fleshed out more and there was a huge lack of dialogue in my opinion. That may have been why I couldn't connect with the characters.  Also, there were instances of crude language and themes, which I don't have a problem with, but they were inconsistent with the rest of the book.
As I said, I think this would make a really great Middle Grade read (aside from the mature parts).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: The Shadowbearer by Terry C. Simpson

Death's always simple. We spend our entire lives dying.

Knight Commander Stefan Dorn, leader of the Unvanquished, has known only war, death and, victory. All in the name of his loyalty to King Nerian the Lightbearer, a man he idolized.

Until now.

Everything he thought he knew about the King, his people, and his world is coming to an end. At a time when there should be peace, he’s once again called to war.

Torn between shocking changes at home, his family, loyalty to his men and his King, Stefan wishes only to enjoy life away from the battlefield. But with the new campaign comes a rabid, unforgiving enemy and a potential cataclysm.

Follow him as he fights to save his family, his people and his birthright from the grips of the shade. When failure is not an option, which will he sacrifice for a chance at victory?

Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Source: Thanks so much to the author, Terry, for my review copy!

The Shadowbearer is a prequel to Terry C. Simpson's Etchings of Power (Aegis of The Gods #1) (My review HERE). As far as prequels go, I thought this one made a strong showing. Perfect for those just beginning in this rich, well-thought out world, and fans of the first book will get some extra insight into how the world became what it was in Etchings of Power.

Stefan Dorn is the one we follow in this installment. He's a battle-hardened warrior and immensely loyal to his family and King. His army of The Unvanquished have fought for decades. After what should be this army's last battle, Stefan wants peace for himself and his men. They have more than earned it. After years away from home things aren't what he expects upon his return.

Stefan is a steadfast, strong character. He makes the right decision regardless of what the cost may be. His only weakness comes in the form of his family. He loves them with a passion and would do anything for them. King Nerian has been an important person in Stefan's life for years and a personal hero to Stefan. I have to say that Nerian doesn't hold up well under the pressure of power he has gained. He makes a wonderful villain!

The Shadowbearer is just as full of epic battles, evil nemesis, and twisted plottings that were in Etchings of Power. I should also mention that the 'magic' system used in the books is well-thought out and very unique. This is a series I'll enjoy keeping up with :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Avatar - The Last Airbender Volume 1

The wait is over! Ever since the conclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its millions of fans have been hungry for more--and it's finally here!

This series of digests rejoins Aang and friends for exciting new adventures, beginning with a faceoff against the Fire Nation that threatens to throw the world into another war, testing all of Aang's powers and ingenuity!

* The continuation of Airbender and the link to its upcoming sequel, Legend of Korra!

Publication Date: January 25, 2012
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comics
Source: Thanks so much to Dark Horse for making this awesome title available on Netgalley!

So I know for a fact that I'm not the only adult with an Avatar obsession. It all began with my husband watching the show with our 5 year old. Eventually our whole family ended up loving it and we were so sad when it ended. The next step in the tv series is Legend of Korra and it takes place many years later and the new Avatar is a girl. Still an awesome show! Anyway! All that to say that this comic is after the events of the first show and will show us what happened to Aang, Sokka, Kitara, Zuko and the rest.

If you are a fan of the show you HAVE to read this :) The quirky, weird humor in the show is exactly the same in the comic. Aang's enormous smile, Sokka's many range of facial expressions and Kitara being all Kitara-y. The art is almost exactly the same as Avatar which is good. If they'd made it look way more mature it wouldn't have felt right. It does tackle some more mature issues, but still in a light-hearted way.

I'm so happy that there is another way to get my Avatar fix :) And yes, I'm an adult that still watches cartoons. I like to just blame it on the fact that 'my kids watch it' and move on. If you love the show, you will love this comic! And I think someone that hasn't watched or kept up with the tv show would still enjoy them. It has a quick refresher at the very beginning for those that need it. Definitely one to check out!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

'Late to the Party' Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Publication Date: June 14, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Source: My own Tower of Books.

Ohmygosh!! I've had this sitting in a pile by my bed forevs. I wanted to read Timepiece (Book 2) so I finally got my butt in gear and ended up reading Hourglass in one day. I was skeptical at first since I kept hearing how amazing it was. But all the hype was true. This book is basically perfect.

I'm going to have a hard time mentioning anything other than all the crazy freaking chemistry going on amongst Emerson, Michael and Kaleb . . . so I'll just mention really quickly that the storyline and writing are great too :)

Emerson gets involved with Michael when he comes to 'help' with her problem of seeing what she thinks are ghosts. He's all dreamy, perfect, and yum. THEN, in comes Kaleb and, be still my fictional character loving heart, he is even better! Talk about some sexual tension brewing! This book has an overflowing abundance of that. If you've read the Sookie Stackhouse books you'll get my next comparison. The whole Micheal/Kaleb thing was very similar to how I felt about Bill/Eric. Bill is totally acceptable until Eric enters the picture. Then you have a hard time getting him out of your head :) There were some parts I 'Eeeee'd over for sure!

Ah! Hourglass was so amazing! If you haven't read it, read it! And if you HAVE, what did you think about Michael vs. Kaleb? Now on to Timepiece :D